Anxiety is used to describe feelings of worry, fear and unease. Typically, it incorporates both the emotional and physical sensations we experience when worried or nervous. Anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response and, while unpleasant, this is a normal reaction when our body perceives a threat.
We will all feel anxious at some time and it’s very common to feel tense or unsure about a potentially stressful situation, such as an exam, starting a new job, or moving home. However, some of us will be affected more than others. Despite being a normal experience, if these feelings are very strong or are lasting a long time, it can be overwhelming. Anxiety can make you imagine things are worse than they are and prevent you from carrying out everyday tasks or even leaving the house. Whereas stress is something that will come and go, anxiety can affect a person even if the cause is unclear.
When under stress, our ‘fight or flight’ response will turn on. This acts as an internal alarm system, designed to protect us from danger in the wild. These days, we can recognize this system through the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ we feel when we’re nervous. Anxiety, however, may cause this response to be activated at inappropriate moments. You may feel this during normal, non-threatening situations.
Unlike the occasional bout of feeling sad, depression affects your daily life, making it hard for you to find enjoyment in day-to-day activities. Some days you may find it impossible to get out of bed, while other days you may feel more able to go about your normal daily tasks. Living with depression can be incredibly difficult, for both those suffering and those around them. Due to the nature of the condition, however, seeking help can often be delayed. For some, an obstacle to them seeking help is understanding whether they have depression. If you are struggling with your emotions and feel unable to cope – it could be worth seeking support. You are worthy of help, no matter how trivial you may perceive your problems to be.
Speaking to a professional, whether that’s your GP or a counsellor, can help you understand what you need. This can range from self-help tips and breathing exercises, to a course of psychotherapy and medication. Everyone is different and will need differing levels of support.